focus on rainbows, on Jesus

3rainbow pic

The last couple of weeks the storm has been raging. It began with an unresolved hurt. You know the constant dull ache that you learn to ignore until one day it is lanced open unleashing a shearing unavoidable torrent of pain as raw nerves are once again exposed. In the midst of that I’m pelted with another situation, then another. The torrential rainfall becomes all-encompassing, a merciless deluge. This was the kind of storm where you can barely see ten feet in front of you. The kind that just kind of appears out of nowhere on a sunny afternoon during a picnic and sends everyone racing for cover. The intense, sudden storm that rains down fury and ends almost as abruptly as it began.

 

My first response is often to become paralyzed with fear, anxiety, and grief. I tend to immediately shut down all nonessential activities and function strictly on survival mode as I wallow in self-pity. Today, I want to offer encouragement, throw you a life-preserver if the storm has caused a flood and you are struggling to keep afloat, something to hang on to during times like this. It comes in the form of Psalm 91.


Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.


 

Let’s look at verse 4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Feathers are waterproof and they have a soft downy layer underneath that insulates. I’d also like to posit that when you are underneath feathers, you are embraced in warmth, cuddled close to the body, and kept from the rain. I love this picture. In fact, I recently bought a pair of earrings that look like wings because they remind me of being held by God, embraced, and protected. What a loving and caring Father we have. Finally, this verse tells us that He is faithful. He is not only going to do this for us when we are on His good side, or He is in a good mood. He is faithful, He will Always protect us, always comfort us. Thank you Lord.


Psalm 91:14-16

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”


 

Why does the Lord save us from the storm? “’Because he loves me’, says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’” (Psalm 91:14-16) God is love. Because we love Him, our loving Father is not going to leave us alone in trouble. Praise God that is grace. We can’t earn his love, we don’t deserve it, and we can never be good enough. All we have to do is to love Him and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Because of His love for us, he will rescue, protect, answer our calls for help, be with us in times of trouble.

The Bible doesn’t tell us that life is going to be easy. Instead it tells in 2 Corn. 4:8-9 that “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” We have to hold that close to our heart. We might feel the pressure of the raging storm and it might be intense but we won’t be crushed. You know what happens to a piece of coal under intense pressure, it creates a diamond. We might be struck down, but we won’t be destroyed. They say it takes intense heat for the pinecones in the mountains to release their seeds. This kind of intense heat only naturally occurs during a fire. God designed those pinecones to open up during a fire and drop their seeds. After all that burned and charred forest cools, it provides a very fertile layer perfect for those little seedlings to grow in. The forest will grow back, more beautiful than ever. The fire was necessary for the forest to stay healthy and beautiful, to get rid of all the dead wood and make room for new growth.

In Genesis 9, God tells us that the rainbow is the covenant between God and all the life on the earth. That is pretty common knowledge. Stick with me here and you may be surprised at what else is the covenant between God and man. In Ezekiel 1, the Bible says that Ezekiel saw visions of God surrounded by a brilliant light with the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day. In Revelation 4, John tells us that he saw a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it encircled by a rainbow. This is God, he is a rainbow. God’s covenant between Himself and the Earth was Jesus. Further proof is in Matthew 26, during communion, Jesus says “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus, the beautiful covenant that saved us, rescued us from death in sin.

In the midst of life’s storm, we need to focus on God and His promises; His promise that we will not be crushed or destroyed, His promise that we can take refuge under his wings, His promise that he will be with us in times of trouble and protect us, His promise that he is faithful. Finally, in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”, we learn that, like the forest, we need the fire, we won’t be destroyed, and it is for our good. We will see beauty rise from the ashes, we just need to focus on rainbows, focus on Jesus.

Be still in the storm

Be still In the storm

 

Today I struggle with chaos. As I look around, I am dismayed at all the tasks that have been half done, the dishwasher half loaded, the kitchen half clean, the toys half picked up, and the laundry half put away. I am not a person that is unaffected by disorder or chaos. In fact, for me to feel calm and collected, I need a tidy space. I feel most at peace when the house is clean, the dishes are put away, the toys are picked up, and the house is neat.

 

It occurred to me, that it isn’t the email, the dishes, or the never-ending list of things needing my attention that is making me feel tossed about like a ship at sea.  The verse “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) ran through my mind. I looked up Psalm 46. It opens with “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (v.1)  I realized that I missed my quiet time this morning, my opportunity to “be still”.  I forgot to lay my troubles down at Jesus feet. I’ve been carrying them around with me all day.  It is exhausting. I didn’t seek refuge in the word, or ask for His help in situations. Instead, I’ve been carrying around all my troubles, hashing and rehashing them in my mind. I’ve been becoming more and more anxious.

 

Remember the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat. The sea is raging all around them, the boat is taking on water, the disciples are freaking out about drowning, and what was Jesus doing? He was sleeping. When the disciples woke him, he rebuked the wind and the water and he said “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25). I thought this summed up how I felt today perfectly. I feel like the commitments, laundry, email, to-do lists are raging all around me and I can barely keep my head above water. Jesus question, “Where is your faith?” hit me square between the eyeballs. It is not so much a question as a reminder. No, I didn’t take the time to strengthen my faith this morning. Instead, I stumbled through the coffee, getting dressed, getting children ready for school routine. As mentally, the anxiety waves were getting higher and higher. The winds of unrest began to blow harder and harder.

 

Sisters, it is so important that we make the time to be still, to make the time to know that He is God. We need to pray, read the Bible, and strengthen our faith DAILY. It is in that time that we will find Jesus, ready to rebuke our storm, and find our peace. He is our refuge, our strength, and our help. We just have to be still.

 

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”(John 3:27)

Crazy Generous

life generously

 

I had a revelation this week.  I realize that I have known it for quite a long time but this week I was able to see it clearly.  I am going to call it life…generously. You may be like me, and might be thinking to yourself, “yes, I know we are supposed to be generous.  I would hardly call that an epiphany.  Everyone knows that.”  When we are generous to other, amazing things start happening.  Crazy right?  I can tell you that I am living proof that it is true.  We are blessed beyond our wildest dreams.  It is a part of God’s crazy wonderful love.  I’ve got goosebumps I’m so excited.  It almost doesn’t seem fair.  You know, we should be completely altruistic and do things purely for the sake of others.  We should definitely do that, but the unfair part comes when we are blessed.  We shouldn’t be rewarded for helping others, but we are.

First, you may ask, “How do you know?”,  Let’s look at  2 Corinthians 9:6-15:

Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for god loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to god. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

First of all, let’s look at (v. 12)., we are supposed to be doing it as an expression of thanks to God. This is something I get hung up on.  I will serve and serve and martyr myself and then I start to get resentful. It was miserable for me, and for the people I was trying to help. Have you ever caught yourself thinking “I do this or that, and what thanks do I get?”  My motives were wrong. In all honesty, I was not realizing that I was lucky to be able to serve people, lucky that God had given me gifts to use. I was not doing it because I was so thankful for all that God had given me. I was doing it out of pure selfish desire. I wanted to be thanked, I wanted to be appreciated, I wanted to be praised for my service.

Here’s the catch.  We are to show people the love that we have received from Jesus.  Jesus wasn’t thanked for dying on the cross. I know there have been times in my life where I have taken that for granted.  Thank goodness for Easter and the reminder of the brutality he endured.  That is love. That is freedom.  Let’s look at (v. 9) “freely scattered their gifts to the poor”.  Jesus asks for nothing in return but to love him and follow him. Because of Jesus love for us, we can love other people….freely….without expecting to be thanked, praised, or rewarded. True love, is free.

How can we give you might ask? God will provide. I have seen it. It is never convenient, but he works it out for our good (Romans 8:28), and he will provide all that we need (2 Cor. 9:8) I am going to be honest, there have been times God has asked me to do something and I have thought, “Oh man, that is going to be inconvenient.” or “Darn, that is going to put a kink in my plans!” I did it anyway out of obedience.  I obeyed and my heart followed.  (v. 7), we are told to not be a reluctant or resentful giver, but to be cheerful.  If you don’t have the cheerful part, give anyway and be obedient, and pray for God to change your heart. He will!

I have always wanted a Keurig. One day as I was preparing to tithe, I thought, “if I do this, I will never be able to afford one”. I tithed anyway. A few weeks later, a good friend bought me a Keurig as a thank-you gift. God is good. It doesn’t always work in such tangible ways but we should never underestimate our sovereign and mighty God.

Since moving to our current city, I was lonely. I had been praying to God to give me some good Christian women with whom I could discuss the Bible with and how it affects our daily lives. He put a sweet woman in my path and told me to do a Bible Study with her. When it started out, I thought I was helping her. I cannot tell you how immensely I have been blessed through “helping her”.  God gave us a beautiful friendship in which we could pray together, call each other during stressful periods, and most of all get in the Word together. I have been blessed beyond belief and I can tell you that God helped me more through that single act of obedience than I could have ever imagined. This is what I am trying to say, by living generously, we are the ones that benefit. It is an honor to do it because our God is good and through it, we are the ones who are blessed and we can sing our praises to the Lord because he continues to show us His indescribable beauty.

Remember (v. 6), Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Do we want to live life abundantly? Next time God asks you to do something generous, take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are going to take a leap of faith, thank God for the opportunity and prepare to be amazed. (v. 15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!                               He is crazy generous!!

 

 

 

Beauty in the Pain

Beauty in the Pain

 

There are thirty three joints in the foot.  For someone with an inflammatory joint disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, that means that there are thirty three places that can become inflamed and make walking painful.  Sometimes, when I walk it is the flexion of the foot that causes pain, sometimes it is the toes, the balls of the foot, or the ankle.  Regardless of where the pain happens to be on that particular day, the end result is still the same.  Most days, my foot hurts.  Walking hurts and even sitting hurts as the dull ache travels all the way up my leg and sometimes into my back.

 

There are nights where the slight pressure of the sheets on my feet could cause immense amounts of pain, not to mention the jerks and kicks from a slumbering spouse.  I lay in bed at night, curled in a ball, trying to shield my delicate feet from the world, crying out to God.  The ache that comes from the loss of the person I used to be, the person that I want to be, and the desperate yearning to be limited only by ambition.  In the dark of the night, alone with my pain, I grieve.  I cry for them, for the type wife and mother they will not have, and the worn down, irritable mother that has replaced her.  I cry for me.

 

In the midst of my pain, he gently speaks to me through his word.  “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  I reply, “Here I am Lord.  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9).  He replies, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”(James 1:2-4) Distraught, I cry, “Hear my cry for help, my King and my god, for to you I pray!”(Psalm 5:2)  Gently, he answers, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”(Matthew 11:28-29) “I will cover you with my feathers, and under my wings you will find refuge; my faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4).   

 

Because of the pain, life is slower and life’s distractions have fallen away.  The Lord is   more near, more clear, more present.  His word breathes life into me, it is in prayer that I find peace, and through the spirit, I find joy.  I thank the Lord, without the pain, it is so easy to miss his beauty. 

What brings you joy this Christmas Season?

15476585-christmas-joy-glitter-sign-with-red-sparkling-bauble-and-bow-gold-thistle-flower-head-bead-strand-ce

What brings you joy this Christmas season? I want to hear what brings you joy. At the end of the week, I will compile the answers:)

Last Sunday, I watched the children perform a Christmas Pageant. It was a tremendous blessing to hear the Christmas Story from children, to hear them sing Joy To The World, We Three Kings, Hark The Herald, and Silent Night. Some of the power had gone out and they did it “unplugged”. Sometimes, simple is breathtakingly beautiful. The lights were low, and the emphasis was on the birth of Christ. Joy….

Joy to the world,
the Lord is come,
let Earth receive her King,
let every heart,
prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sings
and heaven and nature sings
and heaven and heaven and nature sings

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Unwrapping the Gift

manger scene

Last night, my four-year-old son was in the bathroom washing his hands.  Anytime he is in the bathroom alone, with the sink on, I begin to worry.  Unimaginable things happen during those few quiet alone times he has in the bathroom.  Needless to say, five minutes after I had scooted him out of the bathroom, the sink stopped up.  I mean, seriously stopped up.  There was nothing going out.  On a side note, If you have ever smelled the nasty gunk that comes out of plugged pipes, it has a very “unique” smell that doesn’t easily wash off.  After four or five plunges, there was gunk on the mirror, the counter, in my hair, on my clothes, to no avail.  Finally I used a coat hanger to fish out globs of hair and gook.

I realized, this was not my son’s fault.   I turned and looked into his sweet face and sheepishly apologized for blaming the sink clog on him.  Without batting an eye, he responded “It’s o.k. Mommy.” and went back to playing.  His forgiveness was simple, pure, and heartfelt.   It was absent of the gook and the gunk, the irritation, and resentment that my forgiveness can so often be laced with.

I remembered the verse in Matthew 18:3 “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ‘”  When children forgive, it is simple and pure.  They forgive and they forget.  It’s beautiful.  They don’t forgive and file it away for later.  It is clear and it washes right through them.

Can I forgive like that?   Will my pipes ever be so clean that forgiveness can run through them without getting hung up on hurt,  tangled in pride, stuck in the gunk of selfishness?  I can tell you that I have been so stopped up with anger and bitterness, that the forgiveness could not get through.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was uncomfortable, and it definitely stunk.  Here’s the thing.  When you are all stopped up, it is just like a stopped up sink, it affects everybody.  Suddenly you realize that it affects parts of your life that you previously thought were completely unrelated.  It is like when the bathroom sink was stopped up, for some reason, I could smell that smell emanating from my kitchen sink as well.  Not only did I have to take care of the mess in the bathroom but now I also had to take care of the kitchen sink.

Because of Jesus, we can forgive.  We have been washed by his blood and now we are clean.  Is it always easy?  No, sometimes it takes some plunging to get that stuff out.  Sometimes, you’ve got to call in the professionals to get the job done.  Sometimes, you just need a bit of elbow grease and something to get down in there and rip that stuff out.  There’s no substitute for prayer and the Bible.  You can pretend that the gunk is not in there right up until that moment that it refuses to be ignored.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  I’ve said things to someone that I am ashamed of in the midst of my “plug up”.  I had my unimaginable moment.  If you would have asked me if I could ever say things like to someone, I would have been appalled.

What’s the gift?  Jesus.  His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of our sins.  In Colossians 3:13, it tells us “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Forgiveness, it costs us nothing.  Done right, it is pure, clear, and it runs right through you.  It keeps you from getting clogged up.   We CAN forgive like children. Let’s praise Him from whom all blessings flow.  It is a sweet sweet blessing to forgive and be free from  the gunk.  Sometimes you don’t realize how much gunk you had in you until, like the sink, it is gone and then you never want to go back……

Season of Hope

bright candle

This past Sunday, we lit the first Advent Candle, the candle of Hope. What does that mean? As a Christian, we are so lucky. The thing that keeps our head above water is hope. We have hope for our future. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

We have hope because we are no longer jellyfish just floating through the sea of insecurity, being tossed this way and that according the currents, or seemingly random circumstances. We are no longer a victim of other peoples decisions, whims, and consequences. We have a loving, heavenly Father who has plans for us. He wants us to prosper and to have hope and a future. Is it always going to be easy? No. Deuteronomy 8:5 “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your god disciplines you.” Sometimes, we will disobey and we will be disciplined. It will be uncomfortable. I’m so glad that our heavenly Father is more worried about our souls than our comfort, aren’t you? We are similar as parents. We have to be more concerned with our children’s character than their tears, don’t we? Yet, it is so hard for me to discipline my children when they have disobeyed. The tears and sadness rip at my heart. Hopefully, if I can lead them down the right path now, it will spare them from disaster later in their lives. God is the ultimate parent. Thankfully, he is so much better at it than I am. He sets us on a path. We no longer float randomly with the current like jellyfish. We are not at the mercy of the universe, we have an all-knowing, all-seeing, all powerful God in our corner who plans for us to be prosperous. (Romans 8:31)….”If God is for us, who can be against us?”

We have hope because we have a God who listens to our prayers. He hears us when we call. We are no longer Godless, set adrift in the sea, alone. We have a direct line to God, through Jesus. We are set on a prosperous course and when we stumble and cry out to our maker, he hears us. He listens to our cries. He is not like I am. Sometimes, I am too busy to listen to my children, or distracted, or tired. We don’t deserve it. Our awesome God who created the universe should not be listening to a girl like me. A girl who has turned her back on the light, danced in the darkness, and fallen so far into the abyss that the light wasn’t even visible. In all my humanity, I would say that I never deserved a second chance.

We have hope because when we seek him with all of our heart, we will find him. Even in the dark abyss, even after we have been dancing in the dark for so long that we have forgotten what it is like to live in the light, even when the light is so bright that it hurts our eyes because we have become accustomed to the dark, even when it hurts to stand in the light because the scars of the darkness become more visible to us, even when we know we aren’t worthy. When we look for him, we will find him. As a parent, I am not always available to my children. Sometimes, I need to just “check out” for a little while. I am so glad I serve a God who is always available, always attentive, always…..here….

I serve a God of mercy, a God of grace. A god who saw us in our sin and our deep dark abyss and sent his only beloved Son to die for our sins and our transgressions. During Advent, we are looking forward…Jesus is coming. John 1:9 “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The Bible tells us that (John 1:12) “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Through Jesus, not only are we given the light, but we are also given the right to become a child of God. Let’s let our lights shine this Advent season. Our light of hope. Let it permeate every cell of our beings.